We've been going crazy for drones for a while now, but there's an uncomfortable issue with them: price. If you want to pay less than $200, you'll wind up with one of those drones from a mall kiosk, and the only capability they have is poking someone's eye out.
Those who actually want something productive or cool from their drones without paying around $500 are simply out of luck. The issue is that making a drone is easy, but making a drone capable of hefting a camera or of being reliable and steady enough to get a cool aerial shot comes down to incorporating more expensive hardware. Consumers find themselves choosing between an inept toy or a pricey gadget.
But one company had an idea for capitalizing on the hardware most of us already carry around and simply giving it wings. If you happened to be watching Shark Tank last week, you probably saw XCraft striking a $1.5 million deal with the terrifying investors on the show. That's saying something: Shark Tank is infamously critical, so if they're willing to invest in a product, it has potential. The below video shows XCraft's PhoneDrone Ethos in action.
The concept is simple. As JD Claridge, the inventor of the PhoneDrone, says, "With over a billion people in the world who already own a smartphone, why not harness that potential and provide them with a low cost, powerful, cloud-connected drone?"
Fair enough, but there are a few issues. The first is that the PhoneDrone requires two smartphones to operate. Even with the built-in safety features that prevent the phone from falling out of the drone casing, someone's still missing out on texts and emails. To fix that issue, XCraft suggests buying a $50 cellphone to sacrifice to the wind gods. But a $50 phone won't deliver the same quality as a premium smartphone, which means your experience is likely to be laggy and deliver subpar photos and video.
And then of course there's the issue that the drone could literally be shot down. Then you've lost your drone and your smartphone.
Still, the idea hits some positive points: it's foldable, which means it can fit in a purse easily. It really can't become obsolete, since the drone relies on smartphones that are continuously upgraded (though if you're trying to incorporate a non-rectangular smartphone into the PhoneDrone, it won't fit). And, probably most tantalizing, it costs about $200. That gives it the same capabilities as much more expensive drones for about half the price.
True, it doesn't have the same power as some thousand-dollar drones, but for simple aerial photography, the PhoneDrone works. What's more, it's proof that there's a way to bring capable drones to mass market without pricing them out of the budgets of most consumers.